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“Family Tree,” by Kimberly Blaeser

24 November 2009

FAMILY TREE

A boxer grandfather
who once fought Star Bad Boy
who sired six beer drinking German sons
all with the same big hands.

The grandmother I never knew
who might be responsible
for the heft of my thighs
is for certain the origin
of my father’s sauerkraut
and fine venison sausage
perhaps for his sweet tooth
and maybe mine, too.

My father turned those boxer hands
to percussion and gesture
tapping and clapping and snapping
the quick step songs
but buttercupping the fingertips
to croon on bended knee
the long drawn Mona Lisa,
Mona Lisa, men have loved you.

My Chippewa grandmother
who was a midwife and medicine gatherer
tiny twig of a woman
who bore twelve children
bore the loss of two babies to influenza
the loss of one grown son to white man’s war
and the loss of a generation
limbo Indians turned to alcohol.

My Indian grandpa
who squints darkly
into cameras of the past
who raised two generations
on snake-infested allotted land
twenty-eight slow horse miles
his crinkled story eyes
my first memory at two.

My mother born of dawn
in a reckless moon of miscegenation
whose foot rode the pedals
on fifty years of Singer sewing
machines
her needles dancing rituals on a ribbon
shirt
blending our jagged mismatched edges
in a crazy quilt.

Two uncles who ran away
from Pipestone
Indian boarding school
and an auntie who stayed
who lost her fingers
saw them caught mangled
in the laundry press
who beaded kneaded quilted and braided
her way through four children
just the same

Houses and fish camps full of cousins
who rotated authority
on marbles sex and skunk etiquette
whose probabation blues and 49 songs
deprived me of bee stings broken bones
swimmers itch drunken despair
and suicide
in whose tangles litters
blonde and black-haired softball players
I fearlessly set down my suckling babies.

My great grandfather Na-Waan,
Mi-na-waan-ni-goz, Lover of Natural
Things,
whose Antell heart I am said to bear
who carried his name with humbleness
as I try to
and sometimes with rage
fire brown eyes sharp as any weapon
who cupped his hands around fertile
seeds
brown fingers the pinecone
shelled house of protection.

All my relations.

© 2001 Kimberly Blaeser